Jan 142010
 

High Noon. Be there!

Everyone knows that long before he packed his bags and took that boyish grin to Dallas, Tony Romo was a Wisconsin boy, a cheese head. Everyone knows he idolized the Green Bay Packers great, Brett Favre. Everyone knows that, in today’s NFL, there is no other quarterback whose game more closely resembles Favre’s than Tony Romo’s.

Everyone knows that Favre is the master and Romo is the pupil.

Now, in the divisional round of the 2010 NFL playoffs, generations clash. The old gunslinger comes face to face with the young gun. One has more than a few notches in his gun belt; the other is gunnin’ for him. The two meet at high noon (Central time) to settle once and for all (or at least for now) who gets to wear the stetson to the NFC championship.

The perception is that Favre has the upper hand based on all of his postseason success compared to what is perceived to be Romo’s inept playoff performances prior to last Saturday.

Perception, however, is one thing. Fact is quite often another thing entirely.

Post-Super Bowl MVP Favre isn’t all that in the playoffs.

Bob Sturm of KTCK (the Ticket) in Dallas shared a rather eye-opening look at Favre’s postseason play. There is a distinct difference in Favre’s postseason performances—and record—leading up to the Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos in 1998 and his playoff performances thereafter.

Early Favre,as we will call it, had a postseason record of 7-3. He was the Super Bowl MVP in ’97, when his Packers trounced the New England Patriots, 35-21. During the early Favre period, he threw 23 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in postseason play. He had a quarterback rating of 94.1.

Beginning with the Super Bowl loss to New England, we enter the period we will call Vintage Favre. It is hard to believe that you can cut the man’s career in two parts and either part would be a nice long run for a human playing the position. However, this man is hardly human.

So, how does the wizened veteran playoff Favre compare to the young and coming Favre? Not that well. Beginning with that Super Bowl loss in 1998, Favre’s postseason record is a paltry 3-7, meaning his team has won just 30 percent of those games. Moreover, Favra has thrown 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions during this period. His quarterback rating has averaged 84.0.

Strictly by the numbers, it is certainly preferred to play Vintage Favre rather than Early Favre is you want to beat him.

That said, the 2009 season has been nothing short of miraculous. Brett has shattered all the preconceptions about the effects of age on a quarterback’s skills. At age 40, he has posted perhaps the best year of his career. Never has he thrown fewer interceptions in a season (seven). Only three times has he thrown more touchdowns than the thirty-three he posted this season. And for the first time in his career, he finished with a quarterback rating over 100 (107.2 for the season).

His team started off 6-0 and finished 12-4, good enough for the second seed, a first-week bye in the playoffs, and the privilege of hosting the match against the Sensei’s understudy.

Tony Romo is better in the playoffs than you think.

Obviously, Romo doesn’t have anywhere close to the history of a Favre to unravel. Who does?

Romo only just completed his third full season at the helm. In these three years and change, he has guided his team to the playoffs three times and won the tough NFC East division title twice.

With so few playoff games under his belt, it is not much trouble to break down each to see how Romo performed.

In 2006, against Seattle, in a very hostile environment (remember the 12th man), Romo completed 17 of 29 passes for 189 yards. He threw for one touchdown and had no interceptions. He posted a quarterback rating of 89.6. Additionally, Romo drove his team down the field in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, setting them up for a chip shot field goal that would have won the game.

Everyone remembers the mishandled snap. Everyone remembers Romo dropping the ball, picking it up, scrambling for the end zone, and being tackled just short. It is the play most associated with Tony Romo in the playoffs, and the reason so many want to apply the choker tag to him.

That’s fine. Just don’t forget that Romo the quarterback played well enough to win a tough game in hostile conditions. Romo the holder let him down. Seattle won 21-20.

In 2008, against the Giants, Romo completed 18 of 36 passes for 201 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception. His quarterback rating was a pedestrian 64.7. Still, at game’s end, he was throwing into the end zone for the win. It didn’t work out. He was picked off, his team lost 21-17, and the choke collar was tightened.

Now, we come to 2010 and the wild card round of the playoffs. This one is fresh in our memories, isn’t it? The Cowboys thrashed their division nemesis the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14. Romo was 23 of 35 for 244 yards. He threw for two touchdowns, no interceptions and had a 104.9 QB rating.

Through his first three playoff games, Romo has a 1-2 record (33%). He has thrown four touchdowns against just one interception. And he has posted an average rating of 86.4.

This showdown could be one for the ages.

If you compare Vintage favre with Early Romo, a slight edge goes to the kid in winning percentage, quarterback rating, and touchdown-to-interception ratio.

What does all of this mean?

Come Sunday, not much.

If one of these guys has a meltdown, his team loses. Both of them, however, have the hot hand. So, let’s say they each continue to play well. They keep their mistakes to a minimum and finish with similar numbers. What then is the deciding factor?

The answer: The running game, defense, and special teams.

Neither the master nor the pupil seems to have a distinct upper hand going into this contest. Neither will be able to win the game by himself. But one of them will win. If it is the master, then his legend is furthered. If it is the pupil, perhaps a legend is born.

The matter will be settled, like all such matters should, at high noon, with guns a-blazin’.

1 comments
Ralph Hickok
Ralph Hickok

Favre was not the Super Bowl MVP. Desmond Howard was.